The Thrill of Diesel Part 3: Testing the dynamics of the Tata Altroz, Nexon and Harrier out on track
Driving to Chennai and not hitting the MMRT track is like asking for a crisp dosa without the butter melting on it. In my opinion this is the best racetrack in the country — involving, flowing, technical, challenging and safe, everything that you’d want and then more. This is the oldest race track in continuous use in the country and even during lockdown, the trustees of the MMSC (who own and run the track) were hard at work upgrading facilities. The fantastic new pit complex came up a year ago. The new West pits ensure the two loops of the track can be run separately and simultaneously. There’s a proper, permanent grandstand under construction on the main straight. And in addition to the two racetrack loops, the drag strip and the rally track, there’s a third track layout coming up that I can’t dive into the specifics of just yet. In addition to cameras covering the entire track there are now new marshall posts, two new media booths for live webcasting of the races and even a sound-proofed commentary box. And it is open! In fact, October is almost booked out with various programs but the trustees were kind enough to let us play for the full day to answer the question: Can diesels be fun to drive?
Missed Part 2? Click here to check out our impressions of the Altroz, Nexon and Harrier on the road
Now the Nexon we are already familiar with on track, our jury round for the 2017 Car of the Year was held at the MMRT and then, as now, its pace and handling round the track is smile-inducing. You can carry good pace in to corners while the diesel torque powers the Nexon strongly and smoothly out of corners. Third and fourth gears are enough for the full track, with the straights before C4 and C8 requiring a brief foray into fifth. Dive too hot into corners and the ESP cuts in but keep it clean, hit the apexes and it gets around the track quite enthusiastically.
What we were all keen to test out though was the Altroz. This new Alfa platform will inform the dynamics of the next generation of Tata Motors cars and the first thing that struck us is how good the body control is. Body roll is well contained (for what, ultimately, is a road car), there is a nice immediacy to the steering with good front-end bite, understeer is wellcontained, and the engine is eager and willing. I only have issue with the lazy throttle response and the fact that the steering doesn’t adjust for reach, but otherwise the Altroz is genuinely a good car to drive on the track, so much so that we used the afternoon to impart track tuition to our two greenhorns Suvrat and Karan. By being safe and composed with no lift-off oversteer drama and not getting ragged on the bumps, the boys could quickly grow in confidence to eventually take C1 in fourth with only a confidence lift before the MRF arch — a testament to their eagerness to learn and also the confidence the Altroz’s excellent dynamic character delivers.
Missed Part 1? Click here to find out what the Thrill of Diesel really is
As for the Harrier, this is a true-blue SUV and we had the perfect location for it to showcase both pedigree and capability, the MMRT rally stage. Even though the track is now overgrown in patches the SUV is in its element, ESP switched off, the back end swinging out in easily caught slides, the tyres flattening the overgrowth, looking incredibly cool while being hustled. Sliding the Harrier on the MMRT rally track ended up being the most fun I’ve had over the past months in lockdown. And I think that settles the debate. Diesels are fun to drive.